Anti-vaxxers finding 'clever workarounds' to Instagram’s anti-misinformation algorithms: report

Many anti-vaxxers continue to falsely claim that COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous than COVID-19 itself

By Alex Henderson
Published October 10, 2021 5:00AM (EDT)
A doctor prepares syringes that contain the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 at a mobile vaccination center in the Markkleeberg suburb town hall on May 10, 2021 in Leipzig, Germany. Germany has succeeded in accelerating its nationwide vaccinations in recent weeks. Approximately one third of the population has received a first dose. (Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)
A doctor prepares syringes that contain the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 at a mobile vaccination center in the Markkleeberg suburb town hall on May 10, 2021 in Leipzig, Germany. Germany has succeeded in accelerating its nationwide vaccinations in recent weeks. Approximately one third of the population has received a first dose. (Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

No matter how high the COVID-19 death count climbs — Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, as of October 4, reports more than 4.8 million deaths worldwide, including 701,000 in the United States — many anti-vaxxers continue to falsely claim that COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous than COVID-19 itself, sometimes using social media to make their claims. Journalist Kiera Butler, in an article published by Mother Jones on October 4, examines the presence of anti-vaxxers on Instagram. And she notes the ways in which they are trying to get around Instagram's anti-misinformation policies.

Anti-vaxxers, Butler explains, won't necessarily post misinformation on Instagram itself, but they will provide links to anti-vaxxer websites. Butler cites Instagram user Janny Organically as an example.

"If the content in these links were posted on Instagram itself," Butler observes, "they could trip the platform's misinformation algorithms because they contain factually incorrect statements. The vaccine guide link, for example, suggests that vaccines cause autism, which isn't true. If the algorithm picked up on this, the account could be suspended or even banned. But Janny Organically and a host of other Instagram users have figured out a clever workaround: They've found sites that allow you to curate a list of links under one tidy and unassuming URL."


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Instagram's moderators may have gotten wise to what Janny Organically was up to — perhaps because of Butler's reporting.

Butler linked to Janny Organically's Instagram page from her Mother Jones article, but that link now says, "Sorry, this page isn't available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed."

Butler explains, "I counted dozens of popular anti-vaccine Instagram accounts that use link lists, including a chiropractor in San Diego with 33,000 followers, an essential-oils-peddling homeschool mom in Tennessee with 101,000 followers, and an Australian podcaster with 80,000 followers. Some organizations use them, too: A powerful anti-vaccine advocacy group called Freedom Keepers United uses a Campsite link on its Instagram account, which has more than 66,000 followers. Another anti-vaccine group, Moms for Liberty, uses Linktree in several of its local chapters."


Alex Henderson

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